SNP Bank slips £50 million of public money to firm linked to tax avoidance

First Minister, Nichola Sturgeon

THE Scottish National Investment Bank, set up by Nichola Sturgeon in November 2020, has invested £50 million of taxpayer money into a company connected to a tax haven.

The company, an asset management firm named Gresham House previously admitted to owning a management company in Guernsey, regarded by many as a tax haven.

The £50 million is to be invested in a forestry fund aimed at “high-net-worth” clients seeking “tax-efficient structures”.

This isn’t the first time the SNP has poured public money into the private sector. The embarrassing collapse of the Ferguson shipyard which saw losses of £35 million, the Prestwick Airport ordeal, and disastrous private finance schemes to build hospitals are just a few of the ways taxpayer money has been squandered by this administration.

Nichola Sturgeon has had to deal with a significant number of financial scandals under her watch, most recently, the investigation into fraud allegations over £295,000 of public money being handed to her book publisher.

Gresham House says its forests will capture 1.2 million tons of carbon emissions.

However, the opposition has raised questions about the Scottish National Investment Bank’s dealings, calling the move “concerning”, and some environmental groups have also raised doubts about the companies commitment to the climate movement.

The commercial forestry industry enjoys a number of tax exemptions, including no income tax, corporation tax, or capital gains tax on growing timber.

The Gresham House website states: “We understand that many clients want to pass on as much of their wealth to family as possible.

“Forestry funds are accessible to high-net-worth, professional and sophisticated clients via inheritance tax-efficient structures”.

Environmental activist Jamie McIntyre said: “There are lots of ways that the Scottish Government could have invested in rewilding and community forestry projects, so it is odd they have chosen to do it this way.”

“There are issues with public money being invested in a sector already supported by public grants, generous tax arrangements, and the murky world of carbon offsets – the environmental credentials of which are highly debatable.”

It’s certainly an unusual way to encourage people to invest in forestry why the Gresham House deal service only the very wealthy.

A spokeswoman for Gresham House confirmed Gresham’s offshore subsidiary.

“A range of investors including local authority and corporate pension schemes and private clients invest in Gresham House forestry funds.”

Chairman of the Scottish National Investment Bank, Willie Watt said: “Our investment assessment and approval process is in line with peers, both commercial investors, and other development banks.

“In this instance, the bank invested alongside two public sector pension funds, whose underlying members share our commitment to a low-carbon future. Together, we represent the majority of the funds.”

Last year Watt claimed the £2billion of public cash promised to the SNIB over 10 years was “insufficient” and seeking to earn the right to “borrow on our own balance sheet”.

The Scottish Government affirmed that the bank’s investment decisions are made independently and its pay framework is consistent with public sector pay policy.

One thing is clear, there must be more oversight and proper scrutiny of the SNIB and the investments it makes with taxpayers’ money.

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